Peer pressure is something we all have experienced. As kids, and as adults our peers influence the direction of our lives more than we may know.
Let’s talk more about peer pressure to see some of its difficulties, as well as some ways to use it for personal benefits.
What is Peer Pressure?
Here is a statement that the U.S Department of Human Services said about Peer pressure.
Friends can influence an adolescent’s attitudes and behaviors in ways that matter across multiple domains of health and well-being, well into adulthood. We often hear about this in the form of peer pressure, which refers more explicitly to the pressure adolescents feel from their friends or peer group to behave in certain ways, good or bad. It can take the form of encouragement, requests, challenges, threats, or insults. Sometimes, peer pressure is unspoken—an adolescent may feel pressured to do something simply because their friends are doing it.
This statement does well for drawing out much to discuss. But even though the statement speaks of the influence of peer pressure going well into adulthood, it speaks only quietly of the amount that these pressures affect adults. But by simply removing the word “adolescent” and replace it with “human being” and focusing mainly on peer group rather than friends, we are given a broader view. A view that may not be thought of often.
We are all Heavily Influenced.
No matter what our ages, peer pressure influences the direction our lives take. Us human beings are social creatures. We all have the bodily impulses for social connection woven into our beings. Whether we like it or not, we are pressured both internally and externally to become a part of groups of people.
To not receive enough social connection within a group is to be left as an outsider. Now as I am sure all of you know, without interaction with other people most of us wouldn’t fare too well. To be without people too much is lonely. And loneliness can cause mental health problems like unhealthy stress, anxiety, and depression. There is also a growing body of evidence that suggests that it may cause physical health problems as well.
Our bodies need social connection, our being more likely to get sick because of not having it is a clear sign of that. We are heavily influenced by our own physiology to engage with people and groups of people. With these groups and the people in them, our bodies feel much safer. Our bodies inherently feel and know that there is safety to be found in numbers.
To be a part of these groups we are subjected to a barrage of relational pressure. There are always rules when it comes to being part of a group (work, family, community, etc..). Social norms that we are expected to obey that are either implied or communicated openly.
It is these norms which describe the nature of the group, that lead to either negative or positive peer pressure. But first, let’s talk about the negative.
The Negative Effects of Peer Pressure.
The negative effects of peer pressure are usually why we hear of the concept. Generally, the reason that parents are leery of friends and acquaintances that their children make.
Much is contagious when it comes to the people we surround ourselves with. Surrounding ourselves with people that complain a lot, we are more likely to complain a lot. Hanging out with poor attitudes, you best believe that is likely to rub off. And when connecting with those that are into risky behaviors, we are likely heading towards unwanted consequences.
We become mirrors with whom we most closely relate. Learning to talk like each other, and act like each other. Many people say that married couples even begin to look alike! So, when it comes to those we surround ourselves with, we need to be careful. Based on our level of desire for social acceptance, we may mirror the absolute worst that a peer group has to offer.
Negative effects may come from meeting unhealthy group norms and expectations placed upon us. But also come from not meeting these norms. Not meeting enough of these creates tension with the group and our possible alienation. We may be ridiculed, shamed, and threatened. All in an effort to get us to comply. On one hand, having to deal with the harsh treatment for possibly being oneself. And on the other having to face the thought of being ostracized from a group which we have grown attached.
Though the negative effects of peer pressure are many, these are of course not the only possible effects. There are equally as many positive effects of peer pressure as well.
The Power of Positive Peer Pressure.
In the same vein as negative peer pressure, there can be many positive consequences of peer pressure.
Healthy groups, we participate with can help support us, motivate us, correct our behaviors, amongst many other positive things. And just as there are negative physiological effects of not getting enough social interaction, there are benefits when we do.
Above it was mentioned that we may mirror the worst a group has to offer. But when surrounded by healthy, successful individuals we may just wind up mirroring the best the group has to offer. Bringing about amazing outcomes for ourselves, our loved ones, as well as the group itself.
But there are all sorts of individuals in this world, and groups of individuals for us to join. Since no individual is exactly the same, you better believe no group is either. So there are some ideas to keep in mind when seeking out groups of individuals to interact with. These ideas can help us make sure we wind up being pressured by peers that will bring us many more positives than negatives.
How to be Influenced in the Best Ways Through Peer Pressure.
1. Take Time to Get to Know Ourselves.
Peer pressure does one thing. It pushes us to live by the principles that guide the group. Therefore, to be ourselves within the group, we better come to learn what it means to be ourselves. Which first means, getting to know ourselves.
The path to getting to know ourselves can be a difficult one, but ultimately one that has to be taken. That is if we want to understand how to be our most authentic selves anyway.
Check out this article on self-discovery if you desire more information on how to make this process as painless as possible.
The old adage “If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything”, rings true here. If we don’t stand for the principles that best suit our natures we will likely be taken down a path that isn’t ours. That will damage ourselves and our self-respect. But if we do develop our personal purposes, and stand for our own principles, our abilities to respect ourselves will soar.
2. Be Part of Groups that Align with Our Own Life’s Purposes.
When our need for belonging drives us to approach a group we might like to be a part of it is important to be discerning of what their purposes are. What is their purpose, and what they are here to do? That is a great question to seek the answer to. As well as even more importantly, does their purpose align well with my own? Because if we are going to be subject to peer pressure, it might as will be in a direction we truly desire to go.
So if you are an individual in recovery from addiction, getting together regularly with a group that seeks to party all the time most likely won’t be a good fit. If we are seeking to stay particularly cheerful, it would be best to not surround yourself with those will constantly bum us out.
If looking to create big changes in the groups we are a part of, maybe don’t get deeply involved with those that are deeply unwilling to change.
Of course on the flip-side, we will find more personal success with our own lives when we find peers that align with our own purposes. When we find groups with purposes that match our personalities well, we will benefit, as well as the group.
3. Create Regular Positive Peer Pressure for Others.
Not only do the groups we participate with cause pressure for us to act in certain ways. We also create pressure for others. And since we are looking for pressure on the positive side, it only makes sense that positive pressure is what we should offer others.
The positive peer pressure we create for others can be done in many different ways. We can pressure others with solely our actions, showing strong character and integrity while living our lives. As well as doing so more vocally, challenging and encouraging those around us to be their best. While not belittling them so much that our desire for positive outcomes for the group, turns into bad blood with others.
In the end, this is a powerful way to turn the table on peer pressure. It is taking active control of our ability to pressure ourselves positively, not just being swept along by the pressure of others. As well as sharing this pressure we create internally, to push it outwards to be positive catalysts for our peers. This is the work of a true leader.
Well, that is all we have for today and thank you so much for stopping into My Life Experiment. What is written here has come from struggle and growth.
We invite you to take this information given here today and Experiment with new ways to invoke positive peer pressure in your relationships. There definitely needs to be more of it in the world today.